From KFC feasts to seemingly inexplicable customs, Christmas traditions around the world differ hugely. And experiencing them by spending Christmas abroad is a must if you enjoy travel. Who knows, you might decide that a plate of worms is something you can’t go without at Christmas.
In South Africa, no Christmas is complete without a dish of mopane worms. These large, edible caterpillars of the Emperor Moth are high in protein and can be served in a number of ways; sun-dried, smoked, or fried with onions, tomatoes, and spices.
If you’re visiting Norway for the holidays, you can forget about doing any Christmas Eve cleaning. All brooms in the household are to be hidden until after the holiday is done, to avoid having them stolen by witches or evil spirits.
No Christmas in Japan is complete without KFC
Thanks to the very successful 1974 “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign, the must-have holiday meal in Japan is KFC. Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday in Japan but families still enjoy having a bucket of “Christmas chicken” on Christmas Eve.
Attending mass is an important Christmas tradition in many countries but the people in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, put a fun spin on the event. Church-goers get up early on Christmas morning, lace up their roller skates, and skate their way over to mass.
In Greenland, a Christmas meal includes the beloved, traditional dishes of ‘mattak’ and ‘kiviak’. Mattak is whale skin with a strip of blubber inside and is said to taste like fresh coconut. However, it’s a little bit too tough to chew so Greenlanders prefer to swallow it whole. If Mattak doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can always try kiviak. This is the raw flesh of auks, a small arctic bird, that has been buried whole in sealskin until it has reached an advanced stage of decomposition.
In Germany, pickles aren't just for eating
On Christmas morning, German children rush to the Christmas tree not to open their gifts but to find a pickle. The child who is the quickest to locate the green gherkin in the tree receives a small gift as a reward.
When decorating a Christmas tree in the Ukraine, don’t forget to save some room for an artificial spider and spider webs. This tradition comes from an old folktale which tells the story of a poor widow and her children who could not afford decorations for their Christmas tree, but upon awaking on Christmas day they found it covered in cobwebs. When hit by the sun, the cobwebs turned to gold and silver, saving the family from poverty.
There's nothing scary about Befana the friendly witch
In Italy, children wait not for the arrival of a man in red but of the friendly witch, Befana. Similar to St. Nicholas, Befana delivers gifts and sweets to the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of Epiphany on January 5th.
Santa isn't too busy to answer Canadian children's letters
In the true spirit of Christmas, Canada Post invites children to write letters to Santa at his recognized address:
Any letters bearing this address are both opened and replied to.
The Gävle Goat's flamable building materials make it a target each year
In the city of Gävle, Sweden, a large figure similar to the Scandinavian Yule Goat is erected in the city centre each year on the first day of Advent. Like the Yule Goat, the Gävle Goat is made of straw which has made it the unfortunate target of arsonists. While burning the Gävle Goat is illegal, it has been set aflame 28 times since it was first built in 1966.
After a long day of Christmas preparations, Estonian families hit the sauna. A trip to the sauna is commonplace before attending Christmas Eve mass at the local church and before the rest of the holiday celebrations begin. A similar sauna tradition also takes place on New Year’s Eve and Midsummer’s Eve.
In Portugal, extra spots are set during Consoada to bring good fortune
During the traditional Christmas meal (‘Consoada’), it’s not uncommon for Portuguese families to set a few extra spots at the table for relatives who have passed away. The holidays are a time meant to be spent with families, and the belief is that by setting these extra places, good fortunes will be bestowed upon the household.